Today’s NYT remembers the Hoyt Wilhelm no-hitter – last pitcher (a knuckleballer) to throw one against us (if you discount the team of Astros a few years back, which disgraced us.) And let’s face it: Everybody knows the team that wins via HRs will struggle against the knuckler. (Fortunately, we have the game’s pre-eminent slap hitter, Alex Rodriguez. Maybe he can dribble one into LF.)
I still remember Roger Maris’ last non-astericked chance to beat Babe Ruth's HR record in 1961, after the lords of the game decided to poke a stick in Roger’s eyes. They announced that he had 154 games to beat Ruth, and nothing more. In Game 154, we were playing the Orioles in Baltimore. Roger needed to hit one to tie Ruth. He slammed a foul ball homer, and he flew out deep to right – you heard the shiver in Mel Allen’s voice when it left the bat, but the damn thing fell at the track. And in the final inning, Roger's last at bat, the Orioles did something cruel: They brought in Hoyt Wilhelm. They brought in a knuckleballer.
I remember my dad laughing (He hated the Yankees; read mybook, and you’ll know this). “Wilhelm never gives up home runs,” he said. “Never.” I can’t deliver the numbers, which the announcers rattled off, but they were scary: Something like one HR in the last 500,000 at bats. In other words, the Babe Ruth merch tent was safe. Maris bounced to the second baseman. I’ve dreaded knuckleballers ever since. (Not even Mantle's HR off Barney Schultz salved my fears. They are just bad juju. Period.)
So now, we sit on death watch, waiting for our jolt of electricity. After Jeet and Slappy Arod, maybe Jason Nix is our best bet to break it up. Or maybe CC can toss his own shutout. Either way, the doom and gloom of pre-juju May has returned. The Mets look like the favorites. Once again, they seem to own the zeitgeist of NYC. Can anybody get a hit? Will we ever win again? Yeesh.